Previous studies have demonstrated that the ability of lactobacilli to attach to and colonize uroepithelial surfaces is an important characteristic that enhances interference against uropathogenic bacteria. This adherence capacity was found to vary amongst lactobacillus strains and with the type of growth medium used to culture the organisms. The present study was undertaken to examine further the effect of culture media and growth phase on lactobacillus adherence to uroepithelial cells in vitro. In addition, a freeze substitution technique was developed to examine the morphology of strainsLactobacillus casei ssrhamnosus RC-17,L. casei GR-1, andL. acidophilus T-13 in relation to growth conditions and adhesion. A growth curve was plotted for strain GR-1, and adherence was found to be lowest for bacteria in early log phase (39 bacteria per uroepithelial cell) and highest in stationary phase (59 bacteria per uroepithelial cell). Strains RC-17 and GR-1 attached in high numbers to uroepithelial cells, whereas T-13 was poorly adherent. The latter formed a long, relatively dense, fibrous capsule after growth in brain heart infusion yeast extract agar, unlike strains GR-1 and RC-17, which formed a short, tightly bound, electron-dense capsule which surrounded the cells in a radial fashion. Growth of RC-17 in batch cultures of human urine, with and without addition of carbohydrates, resulted in formation of an irregular, fibrous extracellular matrix. These experiments illustrate that growth phase and culture conditions affect the extracellular structure of lactobacilli and also affect the adherence capacity of these bacteria. Structural changes mediated by availability of nutrients may partly explain why lactobacilli vary between species and between hosts in their colonization of the urogenital tract.